Gansey Battling For Spot

Cutdown day is fast approaching for USA Basketball's University Games team, and Mountaineer swingman Mike Gansey is right in the thick of the battle to make the squad.

"It's being going good," Gansey said from Colorado Springs, Colo., where 14 players are vying for spots on the 12-man team. "We've been practicing twice a day, and we just scrimmaged Air Force on Sunday evening. "We learned a lot. We've been putting in a lot of our offense, but haven't worked on defense much yet, on things like who picks up on screens. Air Force does some things like we (WVU) do – they run a lot of back doors. They are a good team, so it was probably about an even matchup."

Gansey, along with the other 13 players in the camp, are trying to impress head coach Jay Wright, who is also the head coach at Villanova, a fellow Big East member. Along with Wildcat Randy Foye, Syracuse's Gerry McNamara and Boston College's Craig Smith, Gansey has some nodding familiarity with the offensive system being employed by Wright, but it's not as big of an advantage as one might think.

"He's running a lot of his stuff – not plays, but basic stuff," Gansey said of the attack being employed. "Some of it looks a little familiar, but I'm not sure if it helps me a lot. I've seen some of the stuff we are doing here from when we played them twice. It might help me pick things up a little bit earlier than some of the other players, but it's not like we are running their plays or anything. Right now we are just running a basic motion offense. There aren't any set plays."

If Gansey's familiarity with the plays isn't a big advantage, he certainly should be well-known to Wright, as it was the Mountaineer fan-favorite's two clutch free throws that knocked the Wildcats out of the Big East Tournament in March. However, Gansey said Wright hasn't brought that subject up.

"We went to the Rockies-Phillies game the other night, and he talked to me a little bit about how well we did in the tournament," Gansey said, "but that was about it. There's not a lot of time for a lot of one-on-one talks. We've been really busy. We're practicing twice a day [since arriving last Thursday]."

Gansey is probably best served not to bring that subject up himself, because there's no doubt his free throws were like a dagger to the heart of his potential coach. However, when looked at objectively, his play against Villanova in the tournament, along with his normal headlong style, should make him very visible to the coaching staff as they ponder the two cuts to be made.

Since Gansey doesn't think he has a particular advantage in knowing Wright's schemes, he's falling back on his usual strengths on the basketball court.

"My game is just based on playing hard, diving on the floor, getting open and hitting shots," said the Olmstead Falls native. "I just try to do everything full speed and help the team. Hopefully they look at that and realize that even though I may not be the most athletic guy out there, that I can help the team.

"Coach Wright wants guys that can play defense, rebound and run the floor, so I've been trying to do that. "Those are the points he's been emphasizing with us. It will be tough cutting two players, because there is a lot of talent here."

With four potential point guards and four power forwards on the team, Gansey might appear to be sitting in a pretty good position, as those two spots might be somewhat overloaded. However, like Gansey a couple of those players could also play more than one position, so he's somewhat on pins and needles until the cuts, which could be made as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, are finalized.

"It's kind of weird," said Gansey of playing for a roster spot. "I want to make the team, but I try not to think about it. However, it's in the back of your mind. You're trying to impress the coaches and play hard at the same time. It's just a weird feeling."

One thing that isn't weird about the process is Gansey's view on the opportunity presented to him.

"When you get a chance to play for country, you can't pass that up," the intense competitor observed. "We're getting tired right now, with the two a day practices and everything, but we'll get in a couple days to relax later. And in a couple of weeks, I'll be really glad I had this opportunity, and took advantage of it. Representing your country is something special."


  • With the cuts looming, not much has been said yet by the coaching staff about the final makeup of the team. USA Basketball spokesman Craig Miller said no timetable has been set for the final selections. However, the team leaves for Izmir, Turkey on Friday, August 5, meaning the cuts will take place sometime this week.

  • Practices, which are being held at both Colorado College and the USA Olympic Training Center, continue with twice-daily sessions this week.

  • The University Games team may have another scrimmage this week, against either Air Force or the Denver Nuggets summer league team.

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